Randolph Street: In Fashion

January 16th, 2019

1_MG_6058Nordstrom–Michigan Ave.

 

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Nordstrom

 

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Pioneer Court

 

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Nordstrom

 

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Pioneer Court

 

All photos © Jon Randolph 2015

jonrandolph.com

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Jim Siergey: Johnny Come Lately

January 16th, 2019

Believe it or not, in my youth I was on the cutting edge of the trendsetting sect of my generation. I was out there clad in the duds, sporting the hair style and digging the tunes that the rest of society would later be wearing, coifing and digging. As soon as those squares got hip, I went on to something hipper.

No Johnny-come-lately was I.

‘Was’ being the important word in that sentence. I emphasize that now because I have, as of this morning, become enamored (the secondary definition—having a liking or admiration for not be filled with a feeling of love for—at least, not yet) with Michael Jackson.

I can sense your double-take.

Yes, I know that he’s been dead for nearly a decade and in his prime was a big star, a veritable cultural icon who was dubbed “The King of Pop” but he just wasn’t on my radar. I wasn’t digging what he was laying down. In fact, I wasn’t even aware of what he was laying down as I paid him little to no attention.

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Young Michael…

 

Now, I wasn’t entirely unconscious to Pop Culture beyond 1974. It’s just that not much of it shivered me timbers, ya know wuddimean? Of course, I was hep to The Jackson Five but they were just blips on my Pop Culture radar. I also knew of Michael Jackson and all his tabloid travails and I would hear his songs on the radio but they neither shook my nerves nor rattled my brain.

However, I never saw him perform. Until this morning.

I was idly scrolling through my iPad tablet and came across a video of some guy playing harmonica at Carnegie Hall. He was blowing a rousing rendition of Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” that had the tuxedoed and bejeweled audience clapping rhythmically along as if they were at the Grand Ol’ Opry. When it ended another video scrolled up.

It began with a darkened stage lit only by a dim spotlight. A figure clad in a baggy white T-shirt and black pants strode on carrying a suitcase. He placed the case on a table, opened it and withdrew a sparkly black coat. The audience went wild.

My ever-deductive mind determined that this was some kind of television program. Perhaps it was one of those talent shows that have been airing for years that I have never watched because my Pop Culture periscope has long been lowered. I thought maybe this fellow was a Michael Jackson impersonator.

After he donned the sparkly jacket he withdrew a fedora which he seductively snuggled upon his noggin to even more wild cheering from the audience. His final withdrawal was a sparkly white glove that he dramatically slipped upon his right hand. The joint went crazy.

As he turned to face the audience and the spot grew brighter I could see that it truly was THE Michael Jackson. Music started and he began dancing and singing one of his songs that was not unfamiliar to me…”Billie Jean”.

Man, could this dude move. I was transfixed. His choreography was very cool. Each nuance of his movements was precisely timed and right on. His performance could not have been more perfect.

Even Fred Astaire would have been jealous.

Now I know why he was such a big star. It wasn’t so much his voice or lyrics, it was his dancing. If he was on stage you couldn’t take your eyes off of him.

Yet! There were shots of the audience and seen were some girls, women, who were grooving to the music, shimmying along with their eyes closed. With their eyes closed! Michael fucking Jackson is performing on stage in front of you and you’re off in your own world, dancing with your eyes closed!? Girl, I don’t believe you!

See? It didn’t take long for me to become a Super Fan of the man.

Now I feel that I must go seek out the Thriller video. I understand that was a big hit.

Yeah, I know. Just call me Johnny.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Mental Pathways

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Jim Siergey: Mental Pathways

January 7th, 2019

“The tickets are under the soldier.”

He didn’t understand what I said. No surprise. It happens to me nearly all of the time.

The mental connections I make don’t always travel along the same pathways that others do. It’s not that mine are Robert Frosted, taking the path less traveled, they take the path untraveled.

So I am often met with perplexed looks. Sometimes these looks of perplexion are displayed with glazed eyes and heads cocked to the side like our canine friends. It’s all I can do not to reach out and scratch them behind their ears.

Often I am completely dismissed and ignored, which is a relief. But sometimes I am not. In those circumstances I am forced to communicate via pedestrian methods without a hint of imagination or panache.

Then there are those inquisitive sorts, language dissectors who wish to know how I got to where I am from where I was and why I used the words that I did.

Offering up such an explanation, as you can ascertain from merely reading that preceding sentence, can be very confusing and rather involved.

But it can be done.

Steveallen

Mr. Allen could make sense of it…

 

However, people just don’t seem to have the patience to stick with me as I attempt to draw them a verbal map of my mental hops, skips and jumps. In their defense, and I am always one who will come to the defense of others, such an interlocution tends to be very dry.

If you’ve ever heard Steve Allen explaining humor, you know what I mean.

Yet I maintain that it is pretty easy to explain how my thought process works. It is basically a combination of visual cues, homophones and juxtaposition of expectation. I then tie these disparate strings of thought together with an acoustic knot and voilà!

I am constantly surprised to learn that everyone doesn’t think that way.

I wish I could provide you with examples but nothing in particular stands out in my memory. The things I say are only odd and perplexing to others. To me they sound completely normal and make perfect sense.

In this particular case none of that alleged obtuseness came into play, at least, as far as I’m concerned.

On the kitchen counter is a five inch tall plastic molded green soldier wielding a mine detector. Under it were the tickets.

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Foot Loose Parade

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Letter From Milo: The Old Man’s Grave

January 7th, 2019

I gave my mother a call over the Fourth of July weekend just to see how she was doing. I don’t see her as often as I’d like so I make it a point to call her a couple of times a week. Mom’s in pretty good shape for an 84-year-old lady. She’s in good health, still drives her car and lives independently in a small apartment a few blocks from my sister’s house.

Talking with my Mom is always an adventure. She speaks broken English and sometimes she can be hard to understand. For example, when I ask her about some of her old friends and neighbors, like Mr. Popovich, she’ll say something like this:

“Mr. Popovich is just fine. He’s been retarded for about 20 years.”

Retarded? What do you mean retarded?”

“You know, he doesn’t work anymore.”

“Oh, you mean he’s retired.”

“That’s what I said.”

“How about Mr. Vukovich? How’s he doing?””

“Not too good. He’s got the old timer’s disease.”

Old timer’s disease?”

“”You know, his brain is not too good.”

“Are you talking about Alzheimer’s disease?

“That’s what I said.”

Anyway, when I called Mom on that Fourth of July weekend she told me she was going out to the Serbian Orthodox monastery in Grayslake, on the grounds of which my father, Nikola Samardzija is buried. She was making the trip with several other widows and they would spend the day fussing over their husbands’ graves, the same way they fussed over their husbands when they were still alive. They would bring flowers, light candles, pray for the departeds’ souls and, most importantly, clean up the gravesites.

When Mom told me what she had planned, I felt a pang of guilt. You see, I haven’t been out to visit the Old Man’s grave in a long time. I guess I’m a bad son. I don’t have the same sense of veneration for my ancestors that the Chinese do. My bad.

The last time I visited the cemetery, I also had to spend a few minutes cleaning up the site, clearing away the “gifts” that some of the Old Man’s friends had left behind. Serbians have a tradition of leaving tokens of esteem at the graves of friends and loved ones. A pious person’s grave might be gifted with pictures of the saints or other religious artifacts. A housewife’s grave might be festooned with knitting needles, coffee cups or smidgens of her favorite foods.

In my Old Man’s case, his grave was littered with cigarettes, shot glasses filled with Christian Brothers brandy and decks of playing cards. It sometimes looked like Jim Morrison‘s grave in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, minus the graffiti.

The Old Man, you see, enjoyed the high life. He drank, smoked and gambled – and those were just the things I knew about. He no doubt had other vices but I wasn’t privy to them. I had heard stories over the years of epic drinking binges, substantial amounts of money won and lost in savage all-night card games, and bar room brawls from Gary to Milwaukee. But, as I said, those were just rumors.

I remember the day we buried him in the hallowed grounds, more than 20 years ago. There were about 50 of us in the monastery dining hall, having a post-funeral luncheon. These events always feature plenty to eat and drink, the favored beverage being Slivovitz, a plum brandy of indeterminate proof but undeniable potency. There were still several of the Old Man’s drinking buddies alive then and most of them spoke a few words about him. It was the usual bullshit that is said of dead people – Great father, wonderful husband, a friend to all, etc.

Finally, one old-timer, Petar Pepich, who was one of the Old Man’s favorite partners in crime, rose unsteadily to his feet, knocked down a shot of whiskey and said, “God damn it, I’ve got three children and they all look like Nikola.” Even Fr. Jovan, who was sitting at the head of the table, had to laugh at that one.

After the funeral luncheon I spent an hour or so wandering around the cemetery. There must have been more than a thousand graves in sight, all of them filled with dead Serbians. Like any other group of people I’m sure there were good people and bad people buried there, honest men and crooks, loyal husbands and philanderers, successful men and losers, religious men and whoremongers. I wondered where my father fit in that human spectrum. Probably somewhere in the middle, I guessed.

The one thing all these dead Serbians had in common was that they all wanted to be buried in the hallowed ground of the monastery. Maybe they figured proximity to a holy place might give them an edge in Saint Peter‘s entrance exam. Maybe they figured they’d catch a break on Judgment Day. Or maybe they just wanted to be close to old friends and neighbors. Who the hell knows?

Getting back to the conversation I had with my mother on the July Fourth weekend, I asked her, “What are you going to do after you visit the Old Man’s grave?”

“After we leave the cemetery me and my friends are going to the casino.”

Hmm, first the graveyard, then the casino. My guess is the Old Man would have approved.

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Jim Siergey: Foot Loose Parade

December 24th, 2018

The cultural twosome that we are, my wife and I attended The Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier’s production of “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream”.

As many of you know, it is a play that has a play within the play. However, the bit of drama that took place a few feet from my seat turned the evening’s performance into a play within a play within a play.

Our seats were in the back row of the main floor. They are slightly elevated with a footrest giving one a very nice view of the stage. My seat is at the end of the row.

A few feet to the right of me sits a quartet of regular chairs, two in front and two behind. A middle-aged couple was seated in the two rear chairs. Before the play began I heard a murmuring hubbub and from the corner of my eye saw someone removing one of the chairs.

It was an older woman with a backpack strapped to her back removing the chair so she could position her husband in his wheelchair in that spot. The seated couple was explaining that the aisles needed to be cleared for the actors who sometimes used them for access in entering and departing.

I paid no more mind to the situation as I assumed attendants would take care of the situation. In the meantime, the entire rigmarole of getting the wheelchair in place, removing coats, etc. seemed to peeve the female half of the previously seated couple.

All got into place, the play began and it was fantastical, complete with fairies and sprites, babes lost in the woods and even doo-wop music.

As Act I ended and intermission came upon us, I heard a guy a few seats away from me describe the play to his partner as “Shakespeare meets Andrew Lloyd Webber meets Jay Ward.” Not bad, I thought, not bad.

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It was like in To Be Or Not To Be…

 

In the middle of the fifteen minute intermission, the wheelchair husbanded woman suddenly got up and began maneuvering the wheelchair to exit the theater. While doing so, the woman behind her exclaimed “You just rolled over my foot!” Apologies ensued as she continued to extricate her husband and his wheelchair out of the area and out into the foyer.

Since it was so late in the intermission period I assumed that the couple decided to leave for good. The podally injured woman continued to be a bit too indignant, I thought, and continued to carp and complain to her silent mate.

The lights dimmed and Act II began.

After a few minutes I noticed a shuffling hubbub going on and it was the woman and her wheel-chaired husband returning. As she attempted to reposition him in the darkness a whoop of a yelp erupted from the seated woman. “You ran over my foot again!” she shrieked.

Once again apologies, in hushed tones, ensued and ushers and attendants arrived to amend the scene. A bit of muted muttering from the twice injured woman continued for a bit before all parties settled down and allowed the action on the stage to once again become the center of attention.

At least in my little corner of the theater.

After all, if I may quote from another of Shakespeare’s theatrical offerings, “The play’s the thing.”

 

Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Natty At Nat’s

 

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Letter From Milo: Aimless In Chicago

December 24th, 2018

My wife and younger daughter are leaving town for a few days. They’re going to Michigan for a “gals weekend,” which means a lot of wine drinking and denigrating of husbands for the moms and who knows what for the teenagers. I imagine the kids’ agenda includes a lot of loud music, sunbathing, eating of junk food and perhaps the discreet ingestion of a few illegal substances.

My older daughter will still be here but she’s 21, attends a local university, has a part-time job and a steady boyfriend, so she’s rarely home.

In essence, I will be alone, left to my own devices, at loose ends. There was a time back before my knees were shot, my wind was gone and my conscience didn’t bother me, when leaving me home alone would have been a recipe for disaster.

This temporary abandonment happened frequently in the early years of my marriage. My wife was a dancer and was often on tour, sometimes for weeks at a time. As much as I hate to admit it I enjoyed those temporary breaks from married life. They gave me the opportunity to resume my carefree (a better choice of words than sordid) bachelor life and to give myself over to the Bum Gene which is deeply embedded in the male side of my family’s DNA.

I’m probably exaggerating when I say that most of my alone time was spent in marijuana stupors or alcoholic dazes, but that seems to be my primary memory. Of course, my memory is not as sharp as it once was. I couldn’t have stayed high and wasted for weeks at a time, could I? I mean, I must have done something constructive. I’m trying to think of something worthwhile I accomplished during my wife’s absences and I can’t think of a single fucking thing.

The sad truth is that I gave myself over to the old RIp ‘n Roar — running the streets, closing down bars, toking like a Rasta man, with the occasional all-night poker game thrown in for a little exercise. I reconnected with old street buddies and road partners. I stayed up all night and slept until noon. I nursed monumental hangovers and and spent hours trying to find my car. I once even ended up in the emergency room of of Illinois Masonic Hospital, but I’ll save that story for another post.

To be completely honest, I was always sort of relieved when my wife returned from touring. I had to take a break from taking a break. I was rundown, tired and burned out. I needed a dose or normality and my wife always provided that.

“Milo, honey, you look a little thin.”

“Well, heh heh, I haven’t been eating right.”

“You look tired, too.”

“You know I can’t sleep right when you’re not around.”

(Going through the mail) “What’s this bill from Illinois Masonic?”

“I don’t know. Must be some sort of mistake.”

(Eyeing me suspiciously) “You haven’t been out partying all the time, have you?”

“Jeez, sweetie, why would you say that?”

Those wild days are long gone. As I mentioned, I don’t have the stamina to carry on like a sailor on shore leave any more. Now, when I’m left on my own for a few days I tend to lead a more sedate existence. Instead of bars, I spend my time in bookstores. Instead of staying up until all hours of the night, I’m usually asleep by the time David Letterman‘s monologue is finished. Instead of guzzling Jack Daniel’s I sip on Cabernet. Instead of dining on pushcart tacos and Maxwell Street Polish, I eat pasta, fish or chicken. And, these days, I always remember where I parked my car.

My wife will leave me alone over the Fourth of July weekend as well. She’s going up to Minneapolis to visit her sister and spend some time with her dear friend Mary Beth Sundsted. I’m taking her absence in stride. I’m a changed man. I may even do something constructive while she’s gone. Still, as the Fourth draws nearer, I can feel the Bum Gene tugging at my sleeve, whispering in my ear, telling me how much fun we can have while the Old Lady’s gone.

Stay tuned.

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Letter From Milo: A Clarification From Mrs. Milo

December 18th, 2018

Okay, alright, so maybe I went a little overboard with my last post. I’ll admit it was crude, profane and sexist. I’ll even go so far as to say it was far beneath my normal standards and, believe me folks, my normal standards are pretty low.

But, honestly, what did you expect from something titled “Pussy Magnet?”

Not only were my readers outraged, the honchos of this site were deeply offended, too. That scabby fucker, Big Mike, the Barn Boss of this outfit, suspended me for three days, fined me a substantial sum of money and threatened to pistol whip me if I ever post anything like that again. His cohort, that rotten bastard Benny Jay, was also upset. He called me a disgrace to the blogging community and disinvited me to his NBA Draft Party and Poetry Slam. Even that low-life Jon Randolph, the guy that poses as the photographer for this site, was disgusted. He threatened to release some rather embarrassing photos he took of me at the Chippendale’s Alumni Reunion party in 1983.

That wasn’t the worst thing that happened, however. No, the worst thing was that my wife found out about the post and, man, was she pissed. I don’t know who ratted me out, but I suspect it was one of her slutty girlfriends, probably Kathy Ivcich. She always had it in for me.

Anyway, I was sitting at my computer, writing a letter of complaint to the Swedish Dick Extension Company, when my wife confronted me. I had just typed in the words “Dear Sven” when she screeched in my ear.

“Are you crazy! Have you lost your mind!”

“What is it this time, dear?”

“That crap you wrote in your last blog. I’ve never been so humiliated in my entire life.”

“Which blog was that, angel? I’ve written several of them, you know.”

“Quit being an asshole. You know what I’m talking about.”

“Oh, you must be referring to Pussy Magnet.”

“That’s exactly what I’m talking about.”

“I take it, heh, heh, you didn’t care for it.”

“I loathed it. Were you drunk when you wrote it?”

“I may have had a smidgen of wine.”

“Liar!”

We carried on in this manner for a while and then things started to get ugly. The only way I could pacify my wife was to turn over the rest of this blog to her. She wanted to personally apologize to the readers of the The Third City. So, ladies and gentlemen, here’s Mrs. Milo:

I’m Mrs. Milo and I want to say that I’m terribly sorry for that piece of trash my husband wrote. It’s so nasty that I can’t even bear to repeat the name of it. I don’t know what got into him but I believe it was a bottle of Cabernet.
The whole blog was nothing but a pack of lies. To be honest, he’s not the stud he claims to be. In fact, he’s a complete dud in bed. He knows as much about sex as he does about quantum physics. The only reason I married him was because I felt sorry for him. And that nonsense about his “God-given attributes” is just pathetic. At best, he’s below average in that department, even on his good days.
I’ve already made an appointment with a marriage counselor and I’m checking into some sort of therapy. Rehab is not out of the question, either. Plus, I’m considering talking to a lawyer, just to see what my options are. Believe me, if I had known what I was getting into when I married him, I would have stuck my head in an oven a long time ago. God, what a loser he turned out to be.

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